Nellie Clarke was a highly-strung 11-year-old girl with a terrible fear of darkness, and she had a particular phobia about unlit alleyways.

She lived at Byrne Avenue, Rock Ferry with her 13-year-old brother John and her mother, Sarah Good and stepfather, Peter Carr.

Nellie's father, John Wallace Clarke had been killed in France during World War One.

Saturday, January 10, 1925, was quite an eventful day for little Nellie.

She attended a party the Lord Mayor had given for 600 orphans of soldiers, and she and her older brother John came home with a gift each from the Mayor himself. Nellie had received a doll she had christened "Betty" and John had been given a gleaming chrome harmonica.

Nellie was playing with her doll at 7.45pm that cold January Saturday evening when her mother asked her to run an errand to the baker's shop. Nellie set off and her mother told John to go after his sister to tell her to fetch some cakes back as well, and this he did.

Around 8pm John and Nellie came home together laughing, each unaware that they'd never see one another again.

Nellie was sent out yet again around 8.10pm - to go on another errand to a shop at 201 Old Chester Road - and her brother John asked his mother if he could go with his sister. No, you'd better stay in,' said Mrs Clarke sternly, when you two go out together there's no knowing when you'll return.' Sporting a red Tam o'shanter, and wearing a red and white striped blouse frock under a brown coat, Nellie looked smart as usual when she called at the shop on Old Chester Road, but the girl never returned home, and her parents and brother naturally became concerned for her safety.

Mrs Carr and her son went in search of Nellie without success, yet there were several sightings of the girl that Saturday evening.

A classmate of the missing girl named Lillian Smith saw Nellie going towards New Chester Road on her own, walking apart from a group of children in front of her.

That was around 8pm, but Lillian couldn't be certain what time it was. Around 9.50pm, a Mrs Green of Spenser Avenue heard a loud bang at her front door, followed by a rattle of her letter-box.

Then came a shriek - then nothing. Mrs Green ran to the door but there was nobody there and the avenue was eerily silent. The woman's young son, Robert, had also heard the spinechilling scream, but he had heard more than his mother, for Robert had been startled by a girl's frantic voice crying out: Father Christmas is after me! Let me in!' The search for Nellie Clarke went on into the early hours of a wintry Sunday morning, and at 8.25 am, Martin Doran of 1 Highfield Grove, discovered the body of a girl propped against a telegraph pole in the entry outside his backyard. It was the corpse of Nellie Clarke.

She's been raped and strangled to death, and her body had been left in a passageway she had hurried past many times because of her fear of dark entries. There was a dark and discoloured oval mark under the girl's right ear, as well as various bruises on the left side of the throat, made by the fingers of the killer.

Mr Doran, the painter and decorator who found the body outside his backyard, had slept in his room overlooking the scene yet he had heard nothing during the night, and stranger still, his dogs had not even barked in the yard that night, and those dogs barked at anyone who came down the alleyway.

The manager of Milne's Butchers Shop said he saw Nellie walking towards Bedford Street, Rock Ferry, with a tall smartly-dressed man, and the description matched the one given by a taxi-driver who picked up a fare at 10pm on the night of the murder.

The man, who had appeared to be agitated, had said to the cabby: Take me to St Paul's Road quickly!' The cab-driver did this and later that night, the driver was having a drink in the nearby Royal Standard Hotel, when in walked the suspicious man he'd picked up earlier. The man had a drink then left. He was in his early 40s, about 5ft 10, smartly attired, slender, and dark-haired. He was never seen again in the area. Mediums were consulted, but their information' was as useless.

A bloodhound was used in the hunt for Nellie's killer, and after sniffing the dead girl's clothes, it bolted off to waste ground near to the place were the child's body had been found and started to scratch away soil. It uncovered a rosary Nellie had lost weeks before her death.

The dog ran down Rock Lane West and proceeded to an alleyway near some allotments behind Rock Ferry Congregational Church.

When the bloodhound reached a corrugated iron sheet shed used as a tools store, it stopped dead, but the police took this lead no further.

An anonymous letter, written on distinctive pink notepaper, was sent to the police from one half of a courting couple who had been standing in the shadows of the entry off Spenser Avenue, where Nellie's body was dumped.

The author of the letter, believed to have been a woman, said she and her beau had seen the agile man carrying the child in his arms as he passed by, but both of them hadn't been aware the girl was dead at that time, so had thought no more of it.

The letter bore a Manchester postmark. On January 18 that year, eight days after the Nellie Clarke murder, a 13-year-old Lower Bebington schoolgirl named Edith Rose Colley went missing. Everyone thought she had been murdered by the same monster who had killed Nellie, but two days later Edith turned up alive and well; she'd been wandering about in Chester.

Edith had written a goodbye note to her father before the disappearance on pink writing paper, yet her father was baffled at this, because he kept no pink stationery in his home.

The paper was of the same type the anonymous letter from Manchester had been written on, but the police apparently didn't notice this.

Nellie Clarke's killer was never brought to secular justice - but I suspect his maker has long dealt with him.

Many times over the years, the solid-looking ghost of Nellie Clarke has been seen leaning against the telegraph pole were her killer left her after he'd molested and choked her.

Some say her tragic ghost occasionally roams the streets of Rock Ferry where she used to play, and there have been alleged sightings of the girl walking forlornly along Byrne Avenue, where she once lived.